Best Scripting Language for Embedded Work?

Alain Ketterlin alain at
Wed Jul 10 08:41:41 CEST 2013

David T. Ashley <dashley at> writes:

> We develop embedded software for 32-bit micros using Windows as the
> development platform.

I'll mostly ignore the "Windows" qualifier. If you're stuck with Windows
CE or similar, then ask them what they suggest. If you're developing on
Windows and deploy on something else (typically, some form of linux),
then, well, think again.

> We are seeking a general purpose scripting language to automate
> certain tasks, like cleaning out certain directories of certain types
> of files in preparation for ZIP'ing, generating certain source files
> automatically, etc.

That's exactly what "shells" are for. They are basically command
interpreters providing a nice interface to various system utilities.
Busybox is a variant where utilities are actually compiled in, and where
you can compile your own stuff in as well. See

> a)Should be able to compile the script interpreter as a monolithic
> executable (no .DLL dependencies, etc.) for easy versioning and
> distribution of the script interpreter.

A fairly common requirement for shells.

> b)Should be extensible, in that one could add commands or library
> functions to the script interpreter in C (for efficiency), and the
> whole script interpreter could again consist of a single executable
> with no other dependencies.

It looks like busybox is able to do this (the faq is fairly precise in
implementation details---I've never done this but it looks kind of

> c)Should be able to spawn compilers and capture the output, do file
> I/O, and all the other minor expected stuff.

Trivial for any shell, and probably for any scripting language.

> d)Graphical capability would be nice.

That's a large can of worms. I don't know any small, self-contained
interpreter that includes a full-featured GUI framework. These things
usually end up in shared libs, which you explicitely want to avoid...

> I know that Tcl/Tk would do all of the above, but what about Python?
> Any other alternatives?

Most scripting languages have evolved way beyond "scripting" tasks, and
usually rely on a fairly extensive set of libraries (either shared
libraries or collection of modules). I haven't looked at tcl/tk since I
know python, but they can probable be classified in the same category.
Of course, expect python supporters to... support python (which, btw,
interfaces with tk).

Another contender is lua, which has a good reputation regarding

The answer really depends on your use case. I think you will be better
off if you keep the GUI aspect separated from the rest. Here is
stackoverflow entry discussing the use guis for (unix) shell scripts:

(via google "linux shell script gui").

-- Alain.

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